Six hospital groups cannot participate as third parties in drug manufacturer AstraZeneca’s lawsuit against the government over its 340B contract pharmacy requirements, a judge ruled this morning in federal district court in Wilmington, Del. (pictured).

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BREAKING: Judge Nixes Hospital Groups’ Participation in AstraZeneca’s 340B Contract Pharmacy Case

A federal district judge in Wilmington, Del., ruled this morning that six hospital groups cannot participate as third parties in drug manufacturer AstraZeneca’s lawsuit against the government over its 340B contract pharmacy requirements.

In a ruling delivered from the bench, U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark said he was denying the groups’ motion to intervene in the lawsuit “without prejudice,” and would entertain a future motion from them if, for example, the government lost the case and decided not to appeal.

Judge Stark said the groups—American Hospital Association (AHA), 340B Health, America’s Essential Hospitals, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Children’s Hospital Association (CHA), and ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists)—could file a friend of the court brief in the case expressing what they think the law requires, in lieu of actively participating in the case on the same footing as the manufacturer and the government.

The drug company and the U.S. Justice Department, which represents Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in the case, both opposed the hospital group’s motion to intervene.

AHA General Counsel Melinda Hatton said: “We are pleased that the court today recognized the value of the hospital associations participating in this case by voluntarily ruling to not only allow participation with an amicus brief but with special accommodations to allow us to respond to any legal arguments we believe would be helpful to the court in its consideration of this case and to participate in further oral arguments.”

We have reached out to spokespersons for other hospitals groups for comment on their loss in court today.

This is the second big judicial setback for the hospital groups, which want a court to force HHS to make AstraZeneca and five other drugmakers—Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, Novartis, and United Therapeutics—offer 340B discounts on drugs dispensed through contract pharmacies, to issue refunds for discounts that were refused, and to impose civil monetary penalties against the companies.

The hospital groups sued HHS in December to force it to act. A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., however, dismissed their suit in February on procedural grounds.

The hospital groups have filed similar motions to intervene in similar lawsuits brought against HHS by Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk. HHS opposes the groups’ motions to intervene in all three cases. But, as it did in the AstraZeneca case, it says it would not oppose their participation as friends of the court.

We will report in greater depth tomorrow about today’s court hearing in Delaware.

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